Tale-based poem: The Legend of Water Rabbit

Today on the Ethical ELA Open Write, poet Stacey Joy invited participants to read a few short folktales, fables, fairytales, myths, or legends to inspire a poem: “Your poem might be a response to, a retelling of, or a new version of the original piece.”

I wanted to work with a fable but the children’s tale that came to mind first was… well, maybe you will recognize itmy poem is meant to be something of a mythological sequeltribute.

The Legend of Water Rabbit

In the forest deep
upon a cushion of emerald moss
Water Rabbit sleeps

and dreams

of the Child.

In his dream
he cannot tell the Child
how much
he loves him

for to the Child,
the Rabbit isn’t real

and there is no language
for conjuring a bridge
across the chasm
of unbelief.

Water Rabbit twitches,
remembering

the nursery
the toys
the Wise Horse
who spoke of love

and longsuffering.

It was Fate that placed
the Rabbit in the arms
of the Child that night
when a favorite toy
was lost.

It was only for a season
that the Child embraced him
and carried stuffed Rabbit
everywhere he went…

Water Rabbit’s whiskers tremble
with dream-reliving.

He sighs.

Other rabbits nearby
cock their heads
and perk their long ears

for in a moment,
Water Rabbit begins
to whimper
and weep
and wail
in his sleep

—the dream
is all too real:
the Child’s fever,
the separation,
the command that
Rabbit and all the other toys
be burned.

It isn’t fire or fears
that brings Rabbit’s tears

but the thought
of never being
with the Child again.

Wake up! Wake up!
The colony surrounds
Water Rabbit,
dozens of their small front feet
against his shimmery fur,
shaking, shaking him

into reality.

Water Rabbit gazes at them
through his tears
from his emerald-moss bed

and asks…Is it time?
 
The colony nods in unison.

Water Rabbit rises
wiping tear tracks
from his velvety face.

The colony parts
Water Rabbit
makes his way through…

he hops and hops with 
boundless energy until
he reaches the clearing 

where the Child
bigger now
(for he’s bigger every Spring)

sits on the blanket
spread over the grass
with a picnic feast 
made ready.

Into the Child’s arms
leaps the Rabbit. 

There are no words
for there is no language
that can capture
love so great
and eternal
and real

as real as the solitary tear
of a toy Rabbit
about to be burned
for the sake of the Child.

For it was that teardrop
the inevitable price
of love
and sacrifice
that brought life,
transformation,
salvation.

That is how
Water Rabbit
came to be.

*******
-with thanks and apologies to Margery Williams and The Velveteen Rabbit.

2023 is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.

More specifically, the Year of the Water Rabbit.

You make vita cry!jpockele. CC BY 2.0.

Intimate conversation poem

with thanks to Barb Edler for the Open Write inspiration on Ethical ELA. Barb invited poets to speak directly to a subject, perhaps a person from the past or present, a beloved or loathed object, or even a dream, frustration, or desire.

Refuge

In the dead of winter
in the dark of night
in the starlit silence
you come

to sleep
in the old
twig-vine wreath
on the front door

tiny warm presence
of which I’d be unaware
if not for the pull
of the stars

the frigid bite
of the night
is worth the sight
if only for a moment

so I open
the door

soft sudden flutter
wings taking flight
in the cold cold night

oh little bird
that I cannot see
you cannot know
how your presence
comforts me

that in this barren season
before the time
of nesting
you find your place
of resting

upon my door

little winged creature
of first blessing

*******

Note: Sea creatures and birds were the first living things blessed by God, Genesis 1:22.

Said wreath. When I woke before dawn, remembering there’s a comet to be observed, I bundled up to try for a view from the front porch. The little unseen bird flew out of the wreath as I opened the door. There is no nest; I am not sure where the bird tucks in but the idea of it sleeping against the safety of my door in winter makes a metaphor of immense comfort to me. I can’t determine if it’s a house finch (they build nests in my wreaths each spring) or a Carolina wren, tiny bird with a big, gorgeous song. In the darkness I can only hear small wings beating for a split second as it takes flight. Whatever it is… it is welcome.

Merry and bright

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting. —Micah 5:2

Ancient wonder is born anew this night
merry
angels
sing
Glory
merry
star
shines
bright
merry
is this ancient night, wonder born anew

Micah, 14 months, Christmas Eve

The duality of slow

In my recent reading
I have encountered
the duality
of slow…

educators know
DEVOLSON:

Dark
Evil
Vortex
Of
Late
September
October
November

a mysterious force
an epicenter
impacting
gravity,
functionality

(=dark matter:
a nonluminous material
causing several effects
in space)

yet in my reading
I also stumble
across the word
Slowvember:

an admonishment
an acknowledgement
that one cannot possibly
do all the things
well

so one might as well
choose to act
vs. being acted upon

a recognition
a submission
a slowing of the pace
even at the edge
of holidays
brimming
glimmering

they are,
after all,
celebrations
of light
(=holy-days)

allow me
an antidote
in an anagram
or two:

DEVOLSON…
Solved? No.
Do novels.

Carve the time
vs. letting it
carve you

nourish
your inner light

it is only flickering
not snuffed
enough is enough

-evil? No.
A divine pull
to the gift
of slow.

slow down, slow down, slow… Victor BezrukovCC BY-NC 2.0.

with thanks to Chris Margocs for the DEVOLSON inspiration

Acts of faith haiku

do it anyway
acts of faith are rewarded
refueling the soul

One little ruby-throated female visited the feeder this afternoon. Although days had passed without a hummingbird sighting, I refilled the feeders and left them out anyway, in case…

Filling the bucket

Bucket of Sunshine. gfpeck. CC BY-ND 2.0.

Dandelions represent the return of life, the rebirth of growth and green after a harsh winter, and a display of abundant strength and power.  – Lena Struwe, Director of the Chrysler Herbarium

At my school this year, every staff member is writing notes of encouragement and gratitude for each other. We are calling this “filling each other’s bucket” – everyone has a colorful designated bag for receiving the written messages.

I couldn’t think of better symbolism than this bucket of dandelions. Or the quote.

All too often, we never realize the collective abundant strength and power we have.

It is in the giving that we begin to experience it.

Charged

The first gathering
before regular workdays
even begin
is a Leadership meeting
called by new admin
to set the vision
for the year ahead
where lingering clouds
so widespread
start dissipating.
The atmosphere is changed
from June, when we left
depleted and drained:
All my colleagues’ faces,
all their voices and words,
shaking off residual traces
of drenching despair
in this positive charge
electrifying the air.

It can be done.
We have begun.

Explosion of positive energy. Łukasz StrachanowskiCC BY-NC 2.0.

Rescue

Just a snippet of my current reading, if your weary heart needs a lift today:

“One autumn, a ruby-throat, on its lonely, five-hundred-mile migration—a journey across the gulf of Mexico, which can demand twenty-one hours of nonstops flight—landed, spent, on a drilling platform on the Mississippi coast. The oil company dispatched a helicopter to fly it to shore. The hummingbird spent the winter in a gardener’s greenhouse, then left, fat and healthy, on its spring migration.”

—Sy Montgomery, The Hummingbirds’ Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal on Wings

Cannot help thinking that sometimes we are the hummingbird at the end of our strength; sometimes we are the oil company with mighty means of helping another living creature…if we but see.


Hummingbird. U.S. Forest Service. CC BY-SA

Light reading

A friend who knows my affinity for the natural world gave me The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times. It’s written as a conversation between Jane Goodall and her interviewer, Douglas Abrams. When I say it’s part of my current “light reading” I don’t mean easy (although it is) or frivolous (for it is not).

I mean light as in candleglow dancing on the walls of a dark room.

I’ve not gotten far yet but here are some lines that draw me in the first couple of chapters—flickerings of my own credo:

Hope is a survival trait.

The naturalist looks for the wonder of nature – she listens to the voice of nature and learns from it as she tries to understand it.

Hope does not deny all the difficulty and all the danger that exists, but is not stopped by them. There’s a lot of darkness, but our actions create the light.

And this from an Inuit elder, on confronting and healing our grief, which can manifest itself in the body as physical pain: Make space for grief…find awe and joy in every day.

—these, I believe. They are often the very reason why I write.

Recipe for Survival

Hold onto hope, and it will hold you
Open the ears, eyes, arms of your spirit
Perceive the call of awe, all around
Embrace it. Let the healing begin.

Of the ages

It is said that
the Information Age
is ending
giving way to
the Experience Age
loosely defined
as moving from
accumulation
(our digital output
is greater
than our capacity
to store it
anyway)
to immersion
in the story:
‘Live every moment
of your life
to the fullest,
with as much
sensory detail
as possible!’

(a shift
reminiscent of
the writing rule
‘show, don’t tell’
although in truth
it takes both
to bring a story
to life
and in thinking
of narratives
I pause to consider
this thing called
the unreliable narrator)

then, this week,
I stumbled across
this phrase:
We live in the age of rage

I contemplate the why of it
as my brain follows threads
inextricably, impossibly knotted
through a psychological tapestry
of distortion
information here
experience there
narrative everywhere
(as I once heard a father
tell his child:
It’s your lie.
Tell it like you want to.)

people do tell it
and sell it
and buy it
like they want to

often, it seems,
without an eye
turned toward the age
to come
being too blinded
by continual bombardment
in the now

the Experience Age
I wonder if it might be
more aptly called
the Age of Escape
fleeting as it is

these are the things
I think about
when I sit to write
in the stillness
of early morning
before the sunrise
before the stirring of the birds
nature’s continuity
offering sacred respite
from the Age of Rage
where the broken road
inevitably sends one
teetering on the edge
if not over into
the abyss
of despair

Hope. Martin Gommel. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0